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Happy 6th Birthday, SPR!

As of my "maternity leave," here are the stats of the past year: 74 books reviewed 9 guest posts 4 independent bookstores 3 d...

Friday, January 30, 2015

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

This book has owned me for the past week. I have been so engrossed that I sort of forgot most other things existed. This is right up my reading and research alley, so I went in whole hog to Jill Leovy's Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America. Prepare for broken hearts. 

In Los Angeles county, someone is killed every day. Most of the time the murder victim is a black man, killed by handgun whether or not he is gang affiliated. These are murders that are not likely to be solved -- witnesses disappear (both voluntarily and involuntarily), stories change, revenge occurs. The police officers working in Ghettoside, the nickname for the area below the Ten in the Seventy Seventh district, know how to solve these homicides better than anyone else. When one of their own suffers the ultimate loss, their work is put into a different perspective. It's the most personal case most of them will ever work.

This is a hard book to qualify with the phrase, "I liked it," because how do you sit back and enjoy a book that critically examines how police and communities dealt with a massive murder outbreak in one of our nation's largest cities? This book was outstanding, it was moving, and it was frankly, incredible.

This book moves past the privileged idea of, "How can a community just kill off themselves?" (I am putting this in a little bit more of a PC way that I've heard people in my actual life express this question.) It starts to examine the sociological underpinnings of why such violence happens – and you won't like the answers. You won't like them because they're not easy, and because there's nothing simplistic about the violence in LA, or even that across our country that we've seen affect the nation psyche over the past few years. It's complicated, yet connect-they-dots-y, and we have to face the fact that we as humans are not rational and logical creatures. It is only then can we can begin to understand the ease with which the citizens of Los Angeles could take weapons to each other.

It then takes this whole discussion to a new level by adding in a personal story – the murder of a young man who was also the son of a homicide cop. It doesn't just add in a personal twist to the faceless violence that we all may have heard about through the nightly news, but it also puts into perspective the daily anxiety of raising a child in an area where you have no idea what could happen. By just wearing the wrong hat, or by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or just by being Black, a young man loses his life and a family loses their balance. Because you never get over the death of a child, and you never should be expected to.

The homicide detectives are also a major part of this book. Their tenacity and their dedication to their work, leading some of them to live in the very neighborhoods they investigate, are an outstanding example of where a police force needs to go. Paper pushers are a waste of everyone's time, but the cops that are profiled here show dedication worthy of being a civil servant. There is a responsibility to the public when you serve, be it as a police officer, a teacher, or a politician. Knowing that there are some good eggs out there and the LAPD made reading this book worthwhile.

Leovy has done a phenomenal job with this book, and it is as engrossing as it is raw. I salute her for giving names to the dead whom deserve so much more then to die in cold blood for simply existing. I admire her for understanding that at the end of the day, lives are lost, and that is worth recognizing. And ultimately that's at the heart of Ghettoside – that at the end of the day, lives matter, and figuring out how to save them is a priority.

For purchase below.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Bishop's Wife: A Novel

OOOOOOHHHHH. This book was super hot at Book Expo this year -- big banner and everything. So yeah, I got my grubby fingers on it when it came out. This is Mette Ivie Harrison's The Bishop's Wife.

Linda Wallheim is a woman who holds an unnamed post that she didn't ask for. Much is expected out of her -- love, acceptance, a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, and lots of fresh baked breads. She is the bishop's wife. Her calling is that of her husband, and she obeys out of duty and love. When Jared Helm, a member of their ward, comes knocking on their door one morning claiming that his wife has run away and left him and their five year old daughter, a chain of events starts rolling that brings to light the dark secrets of their family and a strange parallel to an earlier event that will only soon come to light. While new relationships bloom, older ones come to a close, and what happens behind closed doors may surprise you far beyond your imagination.

We all know my ridiculous obsession with Mormons, so when I saw this book at BEA this year I almost flipped my lid. A thriller involving potential murder AND my religious fascination? Absolutely. I'll take it. Unfortunately, I had to wait until it was released to get it from the library, but it was well worth the wait. It was a super intriguing story, and one I found myself utterly engrossed with. There were many a late night up reading by candlelight. (It was a lamp.)

First of all, the first-person narrator of the story, Linda, was a fantastic character. She had a very subtle character arc throughout the entire book, but ultimately she stayed steady in her beliefs and her convictions, and she was a bit of a radical feminist underneath her religious exterior. She supported her husband, Kurt, as the bishop, and she was a very strong bishop's wife, but she also had firm beliefs in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Her doggedness in pursuing finding out what happened to her neighbor, Carrie, whether she ran away or was killed by her husband, was the driving force of the story.

However, the additional side story of another potential woman in their ward missing -- this time for decades -- added to the intensity. While I would argue that two such stories happening to the same people would be an unbelievable plot point, Harrison writes in such a way that is not only entirely plausible but really quite believable. I found the story leaving me at the edge of my seat and turning the pages as quickly as I could as I walked down the street. Reading while walking – the ultimate sign of a good book.

I loved this book, and picking it up over the weekend was the best choice I made for a chilly winter afternoon. It was well worth the nine month wait.

For purchase below. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Jaguar's Children: A Novel

One book that came very highly recommended last year at BEA was John Vaillant's The Jaguar's Children, and I took it upon myself over the holidays to pick it up.

A man employs coyotes to get him across the border after running into trouble. His companion urges him to take the vehicle rather than walk--it will be safer, he says. This is how Hector, an Oaxaca native, finds himself in the belly of a water tank with no way out. The truck has stalled and the coyotes have abandoned the whole lot of them. As the days pass, Hector records his story on his companion's phone in hopes that it will one day reach the outside world. As his life slips away, Hector speaks to the only living thing he has--a phone.

How heartbreaking was the story? Well, you should probably read it for yourself to find out. I can't even begin to imagine the desperation of the situation, being trapped in a tank with no way out with people you don't know and dwindling liquid resources. Even though Hector attempts to tastefully express the circumstances, I had to stop trying to imagine the setting as it caused me feel queasy. How Hector had the wherewithal to keep Caesar, his friend, alive as well as to keep talking to AnnieMac, someone that Caesar has listed in his phone that Hector does not know yet hopes will save him, is beyond me. How would I handle my sanity in the situation? I pray I will never know.

But really, it was hard not to immediately latch onto Hector as a truthful protagonist. He was heartfelt, honest, and progressively desperate as the book goes on. He is the heart and soul of this book, which is no surprise seeing as how it's his story. That being said, it's a testament to Vaillant's characterization of a young man who is throes of desperation yet has such a story to tell.

I was so happy to pick this book up over my holiday break. While it is certainly no upper, it is a piece of narrative fiction that will grab you and keep your reading until the end. I read this book in one sitting, and at 280 pages that's not a small feat. It was because Hector was such a gripping character, and after a while I became desperate with him to get out of the tanker in which he was trapped. I won't give away the ending, but the lead up is a nailbiter. Very much worth your cold winter reading.

For purchase below.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarter

I have, myself, been looking for a new roommate to replace one who mistook my apartment for a halfway house for unemployed Europeans. (Miscommunication, perhaps?) Between untoward house guests rolling joints in my living room and questionable (at best) decorating skills (have you met anyone who has to see everything s/he owns at all times?), it's time to break ties. So this week I picked up Stephanie Wu's collection of essays on roommates, The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters to have a good laugh and remind myself it really wasn't that bad after all. (Sort of.)

Roommates are everywhere. From boarding school to college to adulthood in a big city, they are almost inevitable in the 21st century. They make up some of the most popular television shows throughout history including The Odd Couple, Golden Girls, Friends, Felicity, and even today, How I Met Your Mother. We watch reality shows that thrive on the roommate relationship. Some experiences are great and others are horrific -- few are a happy medium. In this collection of stories from Stephanie Wu, true tales of roommate experiences are shared all the way from boarding school to young adulthood. 

Oh, how prescient this book was. I had it in my queue for quite a while, but since I've been dealing with a problem roommate situation (as mentioned above), I decided to pick it up and read this collection of anecdotes about both good and bad roommates. Some of these stories made me grateful my own situation wasn't as bad, and some of them made me desperately miss living alone. The funniest part of the connection between real life and that in the book was that my situation most resembles those from the college roommate section. And I'm in my early 30s. I don't particularly love sharing my home, but it's the price you pay in New York City to live frugally. Whether it's because you have a massive apartment in a pre-war building (that's me), or you want to buy into a beach house share over the summer -- at some point in big cities roommates are inevitable. It's not ideal, but we're moving onward and upward.

One of the most memorable stories in this book was about subletting and having one's apartment quickly become the headquarters for a national gang. There was also the one about the stealing roommate who was squirreling toilet paper under her bed. (After all, some people use much more toilet paper than others and then are continually confused as to why the toilet clogs.) It was one part hilarious and two parts sigh inducing because quite unfortunately for most of us, we all had something similar happen. The absolute worst probably would have been the identity stealing roommate. Seriously – what the literal #%&@?

I am not sure that having roommates gets any easier for someone like me who desperately needs alone time and who is very particular about how her home is kept. I like for things to be neat and clean and in order, and living with other people can be anxiety inducing when their way of living doesn't match yours. Some of the stories in this book go further than that, and it's not about different styles of living than about actual violation of privacy and the right to a safe place to live. I also wish that I could say that things got easier as you got older. That's also not entirely true. I went from living alone to having two roommates, one of whom is wonderful and the other is a bit of a child. You can't win them all though. So instead, we just find replacements. Because when you live in a big city like New York, you'll rarely be without roommates. Therefore, having a collection of stories such as these, you get a chance to laugh and realize that it could always be worse. (Again -- sort of.)

For purchase below (Kindle version!). 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What Burns Away: A Novel

What Burns Away is a fascinating title for a book, so I picked Melissa Falcon Field's novel up this weekend and took it for a spin.

Claire and Miles have been married for some years and have a small son, Jonah. They leave behind their well-loved and renovated home in Connecticut to pursue Miles's medical career in Madison. Claire gives up her career as an atmospheric scientist to support her husband, but soon after moving she begins to feel herself falling apart under the weight of a new life. One day, while on Facebook, her old high school flame pops up having sent her a message. She is mesmerized someone who knows her past so intimately, she soon finds she is in deeper than she realizes. What is the line between loyalty and betrayal?

Dean was an older boy, more experienced in so many ways, and he was Claire's awakening at a time when she needed to rebel. Her mother had just walked out on her father, the Challenger had just exploded, and Claire was just a young teenager who didn't understand the world. When Dean comes back into her life around her 40th birthday, it happens to be deja vu -- her life is falling apart again. It's a time when she is in a mentally difficult place and she allows in this man who holds such a sway on her having been there through one of her most formative phases.

There were many times early on in this book where I just didn't like Claire. I didn't understand someone who would willingly move to pursue her husband's career and then whine about it constantly. I discovered about a third of the way through that this wasn't a character flaw, but rather a set up to a very disappointing relationship that comes out of the woodwork. Miles is a good man deep down, but he is incredibly neglectful of his wife. The scene that changed my mind was when Claire makes a huge effort to infuse romance back into their life and her husband outwardly rebuffs her to continue working. He nags her about leaving the oven on (which, frankly, I can understand since I have a roommate who does the same thing and it's a fire hazard, you idiot), but at the end of a night where she gives it her all to make this relationship work, it was just too much. Even I wanted to punch him in the face at that point.

Of course I wanted her to run from Dean. After all, she only dated him for a short period when she was in her mid-teens. I wanted to genuinely ask her if he had that great of an effect on her. I mean, obviously he did, but it seemed a bit like grasping at straws to me on her end. She wanted to be loved and recognized and discovered, that I know. But of course a man from your past who is wrestling with his own demons is bad news, right? We all know that, right? I sure hope so.

It was an interesting book, and one I kept finding myself going back to. It's a story of loyalty for sure -- where does it lie when you have a history with someone that goes beyond simply growing up together? It's a story of choices, and as I always say, choices have consequences. I only wish that things could have been easier on Claire, but then that wouldn't make for such an intriguing story, now would it?  

For purchase below.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Bad Feminist: Essays

I have been dying to read Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist since I read a buzzy article on it months ago. Also, I love the title.

I am not even sure how to blurb this book other than AWESOMESAUCE. Is that a technical term? Instead, I will elaborate on a selection of the essays I related to, which happens to be most of them.

The essay, "Typical First Year Professor," was so on point and true to life that I cried while laughing. I understood so deeply her gratefulness for a job in the field she worked so hard in to get a doctorate mixed with loneliness and fear – Things that I know will be coming when I take my first job. There is specifically a passage where she discusses the alarming rate of dying grandmothers in just one week in her class. That students think we don't know they're lying is one of the most humorous part of this job. I am strongly considering reading this passage on the first day of class this spring as a sort of, "Hey guys, I've got your number" moment.

Her essay on competitive Scrabble was one part hilarious and two parts fascinating. Her thoughts on the television show Girls helped illuminate the feelings I had toward that first season, which was really well done and a strong show, yet there was something I couldn't put my finger on and I just didn't like it. Gay explains that is an age thing--that I am no longer in my 20's, so this desperate search for self frustrates me because I don't want to relive it. In short, of course I felt that way. Like, duh.

She spends time seriously examining how we look at weight, and I was beyond engrossed. It was an essay that made me reflect deeply on how I view both myself and others in the physical realm. She spends time discussing the Sweet Valley High twins, Elizabeth and Jessica, and I reminisced with her. I loved those books growing up, as I am sure many girls did who were born in the late 70's and early 80's. I wanted to be those twins, just as Gay did, even though I would never look anything like them. It's amazing how these interpretations of perfect girls inhabit our lives and take hold of us.

Gay's essays on race and politics were particularly moving, and her examining specific films through her lens was raw. You have to be open to hearing what she has to say about race and depictions on the big screen in such films as Django Unchained and The Help and the enigma that is Tyler Perry. I found myself nodding along with her as I read these essays, and while I enjoyed the former two movies, I could see where she was coming from and it opened up in me new ways of viewing race depictions in movies. 

Her last two essays explain why she is a bad feminist, and I would like to tell Ms. Gay right here and now: So am I. I also like things I shouldn't, I enjoy looking pretty, and I love a good set of heels. But I care deeply about social justice and I want to be seen as a human with brains that are more awesome than my curves. So thank you, for this whole book.

I spent so much time virtually highlighting this library e-book that I just bought it from Amazon because this book is worth keeping.

For purchase below.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

This Weekend I Bloggiesta!

Today I begin my first Mini Bloggiesta. My list of things to do is below, and I will be coming back to this post to cross things off as I go. Shall we get started?

My To Do List:
  • Finish back reviews for Spring semester posting (for the record, this was 8 posts!)
  • Design a new header/logo for the blog
  • Insert said logo into the blog
  • Do two mini challenges
    • How to Piktochart (infographics!) (See below!!!)
    • Optimizing email signups on the blog (After close review I am putting this off since I am using Blogger and it's a bit different than Wordpress in this way.)
  • Add an "About Me" page (I even managed to update my blog with tabs)
  • Participate in at least one Bloggiesta Twitter chat
Now that we are up and at 'em, I am adding a few more things to do:
  • Fill out a submission details tab that lists what books I review and how to contact me (I even set up a new email address to accept reviews. Getting fancy all up in this joint! Head over to the submission tab to check it out.)
  • Fill out a Guest Bloggers tab with my (one for now) guest blogger's bio

Friday, January 16, 2015

See How Small: A Novel

I love a Sunday where I can lay on the couch and read a whole book start to finish. This weekend it was Scott Blackwood's See How Small

Three young girls are closing up the local ice cream shop. Two men walk in, and soon those three girls are no more. The aftermath of the lives of everyone in town are deeply affected -- the parents, the inadvertent driver of the getaway car, the fireman who found the girls, those who just simply grew up there. No one's lives are the same, and as they learn to cope with what they have seen and experienced, their lives must go on, together and apart. How do humans move on from tragedy?

Blackwood may arguably be writing the most beautiful prose out today. This is a hard topic to cover, and I should know, because I will read anything where people are killed. This, though, is harder than most, because for one reason or another, it feels close to home. A small town where everyone knows each other. A local ice cream parlor, where everyone grabs a cone at some point during the night. A family owned business that has sent their only children to work the counter. An owner who was supposed to pick up the deposit that night, but didn't. A reporter who is covering the hardest story of her life. A young boy who just thought he was making some pocket change but was roped into so much more. 

It's a hard book to read, but it's made a bit easier by the girls coming to visit those they love from the afterlife. It's not mystical or whimsical--it's just simple in its delicacy. There is no yearning for what might have been (from the girls at least), but rather it's a quiet acceptance and a desire to watch over those they know need it. On the fifth anniversary of their death, the town and the survivors reel in their own way -- is it time to finally tear down the shell of the ice cream parlor that has sat there the whole time? Is it time to move on and find love again? When will we ever forgive? Is forgetting ever an option?

This short novel packs a huge punch, and it is beautifully written with maximum care for the reader. It is heavy but not weighty, honest yet not morose. It is worth a look for the beautifully prose and the lovely story of coming to grips with an unspeakable tragedy. 

For purchase below.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Magician's Lie: A Novel

I can't remember what drew me to this novel, but I'm glad for whatever the pull was. This is The Magician's Lie by Greer Macallister. 

The Amazing Arden is one of the world's greatest illusionists. One night after her incredible sawing a man in half trick, her husband is found cut to pieces. Could the man in the box on the stage have not been an illusion? What would lead Arden, or anyone else, to murder a man in this way? When Arden is caught by a police man who wants to make a name for himself, the all-night interrogation leads to a story that is so strange it must be believed. 

This book pleasantly surprised me. I was a little touch and go at the beginning, but after a solid 20 pages I was pretty well sold. The title leads you to believe that something is not entirely accurate with Arden's story--a lie, perhaps? That's both yes and no. The story that Arden tells is so wild and off it's axis that a piece of you believes her and another thinks the whole story is a lie. Again, truth is stranger than fiction.

This is one of those books that had such a wonderful plot that was driven by characters rather than the other way around. This is a really interesting phenomenon I'm noticing lately in the way of how books are structured. It was recently have at the Station Eleven discussion that we had in a book club about it with the author, which I will post it later point in time, but I've been starting to wonder about this relationship between characters and plot. Does one drive the other? In this case, I would easily say that the characters made the plot so outstandingly lovely. It's what kept me coming back. The story that Arden tells about how she ended up in an interrogation room under suspicion in her husband's murder.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, as it is a bit of an unexpected gem. I think it is a great winter book to curl up with underneath a blanket with some hot chocolate. Or wine. I really like wine.

For purchase below.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Mini Bloggiesta!

Hi my lovely readers! I hope your new year is off to a fantastic start, and that your resolutions have fallen apart already. I don't do resolutions anymore since I come up with ways to be a better person and fail miserably on a monthly basis.

I am participating in the Winter 2015 Mini Bloggiesta, which will occur this upcoming weekend and be a three day festival for me to do some basic blog maintenance. You may remember that I had to move to two-day-per-week posting due to my insane schedule last semester, and now I am back to three-time-per-week. I have a TON of back reviews to get up these next few months because I have read some really outstanding books over my winter break, and I have been dying to get a new blog design for a while now. This and some other things are on my To Do list below.

Thank you, as always, for your love and support. 

Winter 2015 Mini Bloggiesta To Do List
  • Finish back reviews for Spring semester posting
  • Design a new header/logo for the blog
  • Insert said logo into the blog
  • Do two mini challenges (TBD)
  • Add an "About Me" page
  • Participate in at least one Bloggiesta Twitter chat

Monday, January 12, 2015

From Newton, Einstein, to God: A Poetic Memoir

I am a big fan of memoir, so I picked up Leong Ying's From Newton, Einstein, to God over the holidays.

Born in to poverty in Singapore in the 1960's, Leong is pushed to science even though his heart lies in spirituality. He builds a strong career in nuclear physics and immigrates to the United States to chase the dream. After arriving, he once again finds his spirituality and intertwines it with his skills in science to discover the Twin Universe, which will guide us all into the future.

This memoir is written in poetry, which was a bit of a departure from what I am used to. It had a soft rhythm to it, and it served Ying's story well. I really related to the academic portion of Ying's career; the writing and the publishing, and trying to get it all out there to move up the ladder. It is exhausting as anyone who does this knows, so it was nice to relate to this memoir on that level.

The story was interspersed with pictures from Ying's own life, which helped set the tone of the memoir and make it more personal. I particularly enjoyed the passages from Ying's youth where he was just a boy horsing around and making silly decisions. I could feel the pull he felt between his home life and wanting to just be a kid--that, it appears, is quite universal.

For purchase below.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Stephen King Friday: Cell

Happy first Stephen King Friday! My goal for 2015 is to read two SK books per month to get through his whole oeuvre and bring it to you, dear readers. I love him, and I am sure you do as well. First up is 2006's Cell.

Where were you on October 1 at 3:03pm? Were you on your cell phone? If so, you probably aren't reading this, as you have turned into one of them. Phone people. You might be dead, having been viciously torn to shreds by another one of them in the first hours. You might be one of the surviving members who is flocking with the rest. Or, even more important, you might be a "normie" trying to find your loved ones to see if they are still coherent. They may be on their way to the safe point. Walk there, sleep at night, and whatever you do--don't pick up a cell phone.

I am usually not into the whole zombie number, but I will always pick up a King zombie book. I was intrigued by the premise and I was hooked from the beginning. I won't say I raced through this one, but I was certainly interested enough to read the whole thing in a day. I was dying to find out what happened.

The story itself is fascinating and, quite unfortunately for me and you, somewhat realistic in the way that it may not have already happened, but it most certainly could. You may have just been carrying on a regular phone conversation, but when the signal came through to reprogram your brain you reverted to the most base of instincts--kill or be killed. Clay, the protagonist who does not have a cell phone, becomes the most hated of the Phone People when he and his band of survivors decide to wipe out a flock. This may have been the most creepy part of it all--that the Phone People had telekinesis and could read your thoughts.

I shiver just thinking about it right now.

I really love that King picks topics that freak us out the most. He has a knack for picking things around which we are most comfortable and creating in us a fear of basic living. It is probably my most favorite part of his writing. No subject is sacred. I often wondered in reading this book how it would be done today, in 2015. Would terrorists rely on text? How would they get us to buy into this? It's fascinating and caught me in a whirlwind of thought.

Kindle version on left, hard copy on right.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Girl Online: A Novel

Hi there! 

Since I’m new here I thought I would start off with the wildly popular book, Girl Online by Zoe Sugg. 

When I first picked up the book, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I have been watching Zoe Sugg, also known as Zoella, for about three years now, and she is definitely one of my favorite YouTubers.  When she announced that she was writing a book, I couldn’t stop jumping up and down with excitement that my two my favorite things, YouTube and reading, were combining. I picked it up as soon it came out and couldn’t put it down until I was finished. 

The book revolves around a teenage girl named Penny. Penny has an anonymous blog called “Girl Online”. The blog for Penny is the only place where she can be her true self and escape being judged by Meghan, Ollie, and the twins. They are basically her town’s version of the Plastics from Mean Girls. Penny feels like an outsider in the Plastics group and almost as if she needs to create another persona in order to fit in. Her frenemy Meghan, who is kind of like the character Regina George, is out to get Penny and does everything she can to cast Penny in a bad light. 

 When Penny suffers a epic on-stage embarrassment while photographing her school’s production of Romeo and Juliet, she can’t imagine facing her classmates and escapes to New York City for a trip with her parents. While in the Big Apple Penny meets Noah, her love interest, and things take an interesting turn.

For different reasons Noah and Penny are both trying to escape their realities and find their true selves. The interplay between the two lost souls is infectious and the buildup to the love story makes it impossible to put the book down. 

In her YouTube videos Zoella says that every time you post something online, you have a choice. You can make people happy or take away their happiness. Penny also shares this belief and many other similarities with Zoe. Both Zoella and Penny suffer from panic attacks, have a blog where they share their interests with people, and love the book The Fault in Our Stars. In a nutshell, if you love Zoella, you will love Penny and Girl Online.  

Also, if you’ve ever dealt with any sort of anxiety, especially social, you’ll relate to the struggles of Penny and Noah throughout the novel. Penny suffers from panic attacks and offers some worthwhile advice for those with similar issues. Noah is wise beyond his years and offers comforting advice. There were more than a few memorable lines and anecdotes that stuck with me. 

I definitely recommend this book because of how easy and enjoyable it is to read. But be warned once you pick it up it will be a huge challenge to put it down!

~ Book Chameleon 

For purchase below. 

Monday, January 5, 2015

Descent: A Novel

This book took my breath away. This is Descent by Tim Johnston. 

The Courtlands head to the Rockies for a family vacation before Caitlin, a track star, leaves for college. One beautiful morning she heads out for a run with her younger brother in tow on his bike. The next thing they know, their parents are told that Sean was found in the mountains hit by a car and Caitlin is nowhere to be found. After days of searching, Caitlin has disappeared without trace. Over the next few years, the family splits in their own directions: mom folds into herself, dad stays in Colorado to hunt for his daughter, and brother rebels in his own way. Before they know it, their lives will collide with those in the small Colorado town where things went wrong, and no one will ever be the same.

Holy hell, I wasn't expecting that. I knew it was going to be one great read, but I wasn't expecting that I would throw my hands over my head for mental protection and yelp in the middle of a crowded place. Which is what happened as I hit the climax of the story in a movie theater (before the movie began of course). It was like a subway train that was moving kind of slow at first and then all the sudden picked up speed until it slammed into the station, the riders shell shocked and grateful to be alive.

The characters are certainly compelling, but it was 100% the story that got me. You aren't sure for most of the book whether Caitlin is still alive, and I'm going to have to give a spoiler here, as if you're going to read the book you might want to avert your eyes for a paragraph. When you find out that she is, all you're going to want to do is scream through the book ways that might help her escape. It's a frustrating story but oh so delicious from a reader's perspective. The man who abducted her, and the story that goes with it, is at once unbelievable and at the same time completely so.

The end of this book is a heart pounder, and you will probably have the same aforementioned reaction that I did. And the one thing that makes everything turn okay in the end (for some, at least) will shock you and make your jaw drop. 

Or was that just me?

For purchase below.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Introducing...Guest Blogger Charlotte!

I am beyond excited to introduce you all to Charlotte, the newest (and first!) guest blogger on Sassy Peach Reads. She is a fabulous lady who will add a lot to the blog. She will be posting the first Wednesday of every month. Please welcome her to the fold!

Hi there!

I am Charlotte, 

I read to escape reality because let's face it, me going to high school everyday doesn’t begin to compare with what my favorite characters are doing. For example, I'm in math class, but Katniss is leading a revolution and while I'm in biology, Hazel Grace is in Amsterdam with Augustus Waters… my life just can't measure up! So I guess its sort of like I’m reading my way through life. 

Anyways, I am so excited to guest blog on Sassy Peach! I’ve been reading this blog for a little while now and I’m so happy to be here! I’m looking forward to sending great books your way and to hearing from you. 


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Her: A Novel

I love intrigue. Like, a lot. Which is what drew me to Harriet Lane's Her--a premise that promised hidden motives and game-changers. 

The day that Nina sees her in the park, her obsession begins. She hasn't seen Emma in so long, but there she is with her small son and her swollen belly, about to be a mother a second time. Emma can't figure out why this incredibly stylish and cool older woman wants to be her friend, but she is grateful for the friendship. As their relationship slowly builds and simultaneously untangles, life as these women know it will be forever changed.

This book was borderline creepy, but it was mostly quietly fascinating, like that shy girl you know at work who never talks and then posts pictures from her hard-core drug-fueled weekend raves. It was clear from the opening line that Nina knows Emma but Emma doesn't remember Nina, and this was enough to hook me in and propel me forward. Nina was such a cool cucumber with a wild and seemingly violent undercurrent without ever showing it, and she was like watching a thriller where you know someone has to die, but who will it be and when. (Please note, I'm not saying that someone actually dies in this book, but more like one of those amazing psychological thriller-like movies. You know. I also just saw Nightcrawler, which is a perfect companion piece for this novel.)

This book slowly comes together, and the way that Lane has structured her narrative was mind-blowing. You know something is afoot, and the only way to find it all out and put every last puzzle piece together to see the big picture is to get to the end. It was like an old-fashioned thriller. Quiet. Lovely. The big questions I was left with at the end was: Was every last thing Nina did purposefully planned?

You don't get a nice, wrapped up ending. In fact, you are left with one hell of a cliffhanger, the end up to you to guess. I believe I know what happened, but my version may be much different than yours. It's an ambiguous ending, but one enough to make you heave at the knowledge that everyone's lives will never, ever be the same. Who is Nina, really? What does she want from Emma -- revenge, understanding, payback, recognition? AAAARRGGGGHHHH. Delicious, all of this. Well worth picking up if you welcome ambiguity and eye-popping revelations.

For purchase below.